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Concert appreciation: New Recitals at Rosedale series aims to fill yawning vocal gap in Toronto

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Barretts (John Terauds phone photo).
Peter and Lindsay Barrett sing a duet from Thaïs, with violinist Erika Raum and pianist John Greer at Rosedale Presbyterian Church on Saturday (John Terauds phone photo).

Rosedale Presbyterian Church was full-up Saturday night with a revivalist meeting — not Christian, but musical. A week after the Aldeburgh Connection’s beautiful farewell at Walter Hall, Recitals at Rosedale proudly demonstrated that candles continue to burn for the art of the vocal concert in Toronto.

The timing appeared to be good: To catch the tail-end of attention this season for a future series of concerts by offering a sample of each programme and its artists.

The two artistic directors, pianist Rachel Andrist and pianist-composer John Greer, showed themselves to be fine collaborators with a who’s who of local singers (there was also an opening cameo by Rosedale Presbyterian’s music director, Samuel Tam at the organ).

The tasting menu of art song and opera excerpts represented each themed concert: The Seven Virtues (coming on October 6), Opera Nella Chiesa (excerpts with religious connections, on Dec. 1), Love… Actually (Feb. 9) and The Seven Deadly Sins (May 25).

(Rosedale Presbyterian’s minister, the Rev. Wes Denyer, welcomed everyone to Saturday’s concert so, presumably, even that last programme must’ve passed muster with the church’s session clerk.)

I could only stay for the first half of Saturday’s concert, but that was enough to prove the quality of what’s coming next season.

Everyone did nicely, but absolutely outstanding during that first hour was baritone Peter Barrett, who not only allowed us to sink our auditory toes into the deep, luxurious pile of his voice, but also carried off both art song (an ode to mothers from Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook) and opera (the Act 3 duel from Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, with Lindsay Barrett) with superb artistry.

Both will be part of the Feb. 9 programme.

Despite the full house, the fine singing and the sensitive accompanying, the future of art song as we currently know it is hardly secure.

Saturday was a special event, something that had a gala feel about it.

Bring in four singers instead of a dozen, and will the place still sell out?

And despite having beautiful acoustics and a sense of intimacy, Rosedale Presbyterian is still a church — a long, narrow one that has great sightlines to the raised pulpit, but less so to the floor beneath.

We have to keep in mind that Roy Thomson Hall, with its mailing list of thousands of ticket buyers and subscribers, couldn’t make a go of recitals by fine Canadian singers this season at Glenn Gould Studio, which has about the same number of seats as the Rosedale church.

Plus, it’s a shorter walk from the subway to the Canadian Broadcasting Centre than it is from the Bloor line to the corner of Mt Pleasant Rd and South Dr.

Like everyone else present at Saturday’s concert, I really want these recitals to succeed. But I also see that success won’t come easily. At least we know that artistic excellence is not in question.

To find out more about Recitals at Rosedale, click here.


A few minutes after I posted this, Samuel Tam wrote to say that Roy Thomson Hall has agreed to promote the Rescitals at Rosedale to its mailing list next season.

John Terauds


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